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Dogwood Coffee has been a member of 1% for Humanity since its inception. Last year, we funded the building of a community well in northern Ethiopia with the organization Charity: Water. This year and moving forward, one percent of our sales will go to the 1% for Humanity project grants.
While Dogwood Coffee has contributed money each year to humanitarian causes, we haven’t talked much about it or shared what being a 1% for Humanity member really means. 1% of our gross income from your purchases is going towards poverty alleviation in some of the least developed countries in the world through 1% for Humanity. We hope for Dogwood to be one of many platforms for letting people know how they can also make a difference.
We interviewed founder Nick Pearson, who also works here at Dogwood, to put into clearer words the foundation and movement of 1% for Humanity.
Explain the structure of the giving and what it means to become a member.
1% for humanity is something that anyone can sign up for, individuals or businesses. When individuals join they can sign up for a donation of whatever monthly amount they’re comfortable with. The concept is based off of everyone giving 1% on an ongoing basis, which is a small enough number for a large number of people to sustainably commit to. We’re looking for people to sign up monthly—that’s what being a 1% for Humanity member is. A member is someone who sees the need, realizes it’s underfunded, and is willing to commit to give on an ongoing basis to address these problems. Having a residual impact with smaller monthly gifts is much more feasible and realistic for most people than waiting to give a big chunk of money ‘someday’ in the future when they might have it. Instead of waiting until you feel like you’re in a position to do something huge, you can make an immediate and ongoing impact with a modest commitment, knowing that the partner organizations are being vetted out for you. The projects are clearly focused on where the problems are the worst, and you’re supporting a variety of urgent focus areas in multiple regions, all with one simple donation. The tagline on the website is ‘humanitarian giving made simple’. We’re here to make it easier for people to give to extreme poverty alleviation. They can just hear ‘We’re focused on the worst places in the world, if you want to learn more about that,here’s some detailed fact sheets about what these programs are doing, and about the organizations that are doing them, but you don’t have to think about it that much beyond just signing up if you don’t want to.’ The simplicity is the value-add, you can give to multiple causes at once, you don’t have to just pick clean water, for example, because clean water is important but only one aspect of development. Without all the issues of development being addressed, the progress is going to be limited. You also get to support multiple organizations that are each reputable and skilled in their specific focus areas.You can help implement emergency relief, maternal and child health care, agricultural development, microfinance, education, water and sanitation projects andmore, all with one simple recurring donation that is split equally between the grants.
How does the structure of giving through 1% for Humanity and contributing to the project grants differ from giving directly to any one of these organizations?
One of the key advantages of giving to one percent is that giving together in larger dollar amounts allows us to establish grant agreements with organizations for specific areas of focus that, in many cases, your average individual couldn’t designate donations for. Four of the five programs we’re currently raising funds for are located in Africa because a vast majority of preventable child mortality occurs there. However, donors in the U.S. often don’t have the ability to select which country program or region they want their donations to fund when giving an individual donation. Our grant proposals are negotiated based on where the World Health Organization data and other development reports indicate the need is greatest. When I established this first set of grant goals, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger were tied for being the two least developed countries in the world according to the UN Human Development index, and these countries also have some of the highest levels of poverty-related mortality in the world. The collective pooling of 1% for Humanity member funds enables us to allocate our donations to target those specific places. For example, donors in the U.S. can’t typically earmark donations for WaterAid’s Niger fund, even though Niger has the lowest level of improved sanitation access in the world and only half it’s population has improved water sources. I negotiated a grant proposal for $25,000 so that we could fund that specific country program.
Why is one percent focused on international aid, as opposed to domestic?
Giving from Americans is almost entirely focused on America. We’re the most generous nation in the world when it comes to charitable giving, but 96% of the 330 billion dollars given every year by individuals, companies and private foundations goes to domestic charities doing domestic work. Of the 4% that is given internationally, only a tiny fraction is designated for extreme poverty alleviation work. There’s the Gates Foundation and a few other well-known champions of the cause, which lead people to assume that there’s just tons of money going to international poverty, but we can easily assume that less than one percent of charitable donations from U.S. citizens are being allocated to fight extreme poverty or injustice. This includes giving from church denominations, which currently receive a third of all private donations in America. Since 99.9% of child mortality occurs outside the U.S. this lack of prioritization is tragic and our funding model seeks to increase funding for areas that need it most.
You’ve shifted in the past year from a business-giving model, to opening it up to individuals as well. Why the change?
In large part, I just realized that this is something that could easily be available to anyone, and I wanted to raise more money for grants with specific partners and focus areas. Individuals are more likely to step into something like this anyway, as it’s a really high commitment level for your average business.
The individual giving is more the direction of where things will go, as opposed to a business giving based organization then?
I don’t look at it as a business giving movement anymore. If it had started the way it is now, the business giving aspect would have been a side component just like any other nonprofit with corporate participants. Because I started it the other way [focused on business giving,] I think many people who have heard of 1% for Humanity in the past may not even be aware that it’s evolved to include individual giving now. We’re trying to make that clear on the website and as we get the word out moving forward.
With the incorporation of individual giving in the past year, you’ve also changed the structure of how the money is given from businesses. It’s changed from allowing the business to choose the organizations to donate to, to allocating the money towards these specific grants. In the first years, Dogwood gave money to Blood Water Mission, Charity: Water and Long Miles Coffee Project. Why did you make the decision to shift things in this direction?
Since we started raising money for our own grants, it only made sense to move the businesses in the same direction so all our members were funding the same projects. Our mission from the beginning was to address extreme poverty and the focus on these specific projects allows us to be truer to that than the previous model where companies just had to give to ‘humanitarian’ nonprofits of their choice. A lot of the organizations chosen to receive donations in the past weren’t necessarily supporting ‘extreme poverty’ alleviation work. Additionally, a lot of companies weren’t giving until the end of the year because they didn’t know where they were going to give, and now they no longer have to decide. It’s also much simpler from an annual reporting standpoint since we actually audit and verify the giving levels of member businesses to ensure they’re meeting the 1% minimum standard that is written into our licensing agreements.
What are you looking for in members and how do you see 1% for Humanity growing in the future?
I would like to get a couple hundred individual members on board and be funding new grants every year. Preferably, we would keep the same key nonprofit partners as much as possible and adjust the projects we fund according to the data available each year. The numbers I based these first five grants on last year have actually changed a little bit, but the bottom 10 countries, as ranked by child mortality levels, are still the bottom 10. They shifted a little, but not a single one has moved up and out of that category. These aren’t the places you see in the news all the time, which is a large part of why the underfunding persists. In Syria, things are horrible, but exponentially more people are dying in these places and most of it’s preventable.
Extreme poverty is such a significant and complicated topic that’s it’s hard to have concise talking points to draw folks in. I think people sometimes use the complexity and size of the issues as an excuse not to give, or say things like ‘These numbers are too big to understand. I hear that number and my brain just turns off.’ You can tell people that 6.3 million kids die every year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean what it should to them. This is why a lot of nonprofits choose to focus on the story, the story of one, to give a single example of need that people can connect with. But why shouldn’t the sheer size of the need draw even more of our attention? The fact that 17,000 children still die each day from preventable causes should be just as newsworthy and urgent as anything else going on in the world. Why shouldn’t the story of many be compelling?
More facts about the need for action and information about becoming a member can be found at www.onepercentforhumanity.org, as well as Nick’s contributions to Huffington Post at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nick pearson
We encourage everyone interested in what Dogwood Coffee participates in, or anyone exploring the idea of becoming a member to look at the specific project grants and the causes they support.
[Interview by Stephanie Ratanas]
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